Drought disaster relief available for north Arkansas farmers
HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - An additional 20 Arkansas counties have been designated as primary natural disaster areas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced this week.
Hutchinson said that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack had responded to his request for more drought assistance in Arkansas.
As of Wednesday, counties designated primary natural disaster areas in north Arkansas include: Boone, Carroll, Izard, Madison, Marion, Newton, Searcy, and Van Buren.
“Agriculture it’s our state’s largest industry, incredibly important to our state, and for good reason,” said Wes Ward, Arkansas Department of Agriculture secretary. “Agriculture provides the food, the fiber, the fuel, the shelter that we rely on every day.”
“It just really slapped us right in the face, so we’re short on hay, we’re short on grass, and we’ve had to sell a lot of our cattle, and it’s a pretty rough deal,” said Gary Watkins, a north Arkansas farmer. “They have to turn in on their hay fields to graze the cows and try to hold them together. That didn’t work. So we’ve sold more cows in Boone County and Carroll County this year than we have a lot of them.”
Arkansas’ governor announced the drought disaster declaration on July 15, opening up federal aid through the department of agriculture to help those struggling.
“The main thing that would do is opening up emergency loans so producers can purchase hay or work on whatever issues that are specific farm,” said Ward.
Many farmers are already taking drastic measures.
“They have to turn in on their hay fields to graze the cows and try to hold them together. That didn’t work,” said Watkins. “So we’ve sold more cows in Boone County and Carroll County this year than we have a lot of them.”
And while the emergency funding may be a saving grace for many, a concern still resides among the younger generation of farmers.
“If you’re a younger producers and you’re trying to make ends meet and go through a year like this where you’re losing money and going into debt,” said Ward. “You’re providing for yourself and your family. You’re looking at those less risky jobs.”
Local farmers like Watkins say droughts like this can be the breaking point for younger generation farmers. And while funds can help to some degree, he says at some point. You need help from mother nature.
“This hot weather we’ve had this week has really taken a lot of water out of it,” he said. “But still yet it helps us and if we get another rain like they’re saying later this week. We can still grow some foliage this fall, but we’re still going to be way short.”
Arkansas Department of Agriculture can direct contact to nearest headquarters:
- (501) 225-1598
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